Exchanging your wedding vows on a faraway island with family and friends gathered around you is beyond exciting. We highly recommend it. But no matter how beautiful the destination is and how much your guests love you, traveling far from home to an unfamiliar locale at great expense among unfamiliar people can actually prove pretty stressful. Having a few creative solutions up your lace sleeve can help make your destination wedding guests feel not only comfortable, but loved by you, as well. Here are some suggestions:
First things first: Get the word out as early as possible
You are asking all your favorite peeps to take a trip that will likely cost them a lot of time and money. Give them as much advance notice as possible (8 months isn’t too soon!) to find the best airfares, book their rooms, get work covered, schedule nannies, etc. The sooner you get your dates on the calendar, the better the chances that all will be in attendance on your big day.
Put them in the loop — online
Create a website! Ideally when you send your “save the date” to guests you include a link to your wedding site. It doesn’t need to be fancy or complicated and you can simply update it with new info as time goes on. Having all your information in one easy portal will truly benefit your guests. It may even save you money on printing for things like maps, itineraries, etc. You could include information on:
1 Your preferred hotel (and adjacent hotels, if necessary).
2 Transportation (both from the airport and around town).
3 An itinerary of events (including attire suggestions like “beach casual” or “cocktail”).
4 The destination town (maps, weather, a little fun history).
5 The story of why you chose this particular destination.
6 Recommendations (restaurants, activities, shopping).
7 The guest list or a guest genealogy (more on that soon).
8 Emergency contact info
The welcome wagon
A great way to make your guests feel loved and thought of right off the bat is with a welcome basket or tote filled with goodies. Sneak these into your guests’ hotel rooms for discovery upon arrival — or (even better) hand deliver them with a hug and answers to any questions (time permitting, of course!) Inside could include some helpful information (especially if you do not have a website): an updated itinerary, transportation info, the name and extension of your favorite concierge, coupons for activities, on-site babysitting service info, the menu from your favorite local restaurant. (The bonus? You might not be peppered with quite as many texts and calls throughout the stay asking for all these details.) Additionally you could add some fun and thoughtful items like flip flops, reef-friendly sunscreen, a pashmina for chilly evenings, a personalized beach towel, a bottle of champagne or local rum, some sort of hangover remedy and/or perhaps a meaningful item from your personal love story. (i.e. “We got engaged in Paris so wanted to share our favorite French chocolates with you!”) Elevate your event with memorable details.
Mastermind some mingling
Welcome your guests from the get-go with a happy hour reception or a festive poolside gathering — preferably open-house style so folks can drop in as they arrive or after a quick rest. Ideally, your guests feel thought of and connected. They are likely from all facets of your life and some may not know each other, so provide plenty of relaxed opportunities for mingling. If you create name tags, consider doing some match-making by putting the name of another guest on the back of each name tag so that person has someone to seek out. You could even put the reason why you want to connect them. Maybe your Aunt Joan worked in Chicago for a few years and one of your bridesmaids is from Chicago. You could write: Go find Joan Smith and discuss if Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is as good as Giordano’s. A guest genealogy chart is another way to connect all your favorite peeps. Some charts are elaborate and expensive and some offer easy templates. Print out some simple versions to distribute during your first gathering. Add little facts about each of your guests to get them chatting! You could also organize group adventures and activities such as a beach outing, a ziplining day or hula lessons. Nothing breaks the ice faster than Uncle George in a grass skirt.
Make sure they get around!
If the planning gods are smiling upon you, you will enjoy the all-mighty troika of destination wedding scheduling bliss: Your nuptials, your reception and your guest accommodations are ALL happening at the same site. Ahhhh. But if your reception is on the beach a mile from the hotel or your guests are staying in far-flung accommodations around town, be a chum and provide transportation for them to and fro at your expense. (Budget it!) No one wants to be scrambling at the last minute to figure out how to get to that particular stretch of sand under the third palm tree on the left. This is just as much for your peace of mind as for theirs!
Of course a destination wedding usually means an exotic locale with lots to do and see, but the bottom line is your guests want to spend time with you. You are the reason they’ve cancelled other trips, left their work behind, and hopped on planes. Be sure you allocate time to connect with each of them — even if it’s brief. Nothing replaces genuine moments of bonding. Aunt Bertha may not be as much fun as your college buddies down the hall, but be sure to take the time to acknowledge in person how much it means to you that she temporarily shuttered her cupcake bakery in West Virginia just to fly out to witness you say “I do.”
Most of all, let your happiness spill over to them. After all, there is so much to celebrate!
For more tips on keeping your guests comfy at your destination wedding, check in with our Wedding Coordinator who is always happy to answer questions! For the most memorable destination wedding ever, consider Koloa Landing Resort on Kauai’s sunny south shore. Aloha!
by Erica Karlin — Koloa Landing Resort